When Kate Bowler, an associate professor at Duke Divinity School, was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer at age 35, her chances of surviving two years were just 14%. No Cure for Being Human is the wry, touching follow-up to Bowler's 2018 memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I've Loved), and its associated podcast. Here, Bowler continues to combat unhelpful religious/self-help mantras as she ponders what to do with the extra time medical breakthroughs have given her.
After multiple surgeries, a promising immunotherapy drug trial gave Bowler hope that she would live to see her 40th birthday and her young son start kindergarten. Working on her bucket list, she found that small moments outshined large events: on a trip to the Grand Canyon, what stood out was a chapel in the ponderosa pinewoods where she added a prayer to those plastering the walls. In the Church calendar, "Ordinary Time" is where most of life plays out, so she encourages readers to live in an "eternal present."
The chapters function like stand-alone essays, some titled after particular truisms (like "You Only Live Once"). The book's bittersweet tone finds the humor as well as the tragedy in a cancer diagnosis. Witty re-created dialogue and poignant scenes show the type-A author learning to let go: "I am probably replaceable," she acknowledges, but here in the shadow of death "the mundane has begun to sparkle." These dispatches from the "lumpy middle" of life and faith are especially recommended to fans of Anne Lamott. --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck